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“I’m optimistic that, if given the chance, we have the votes to pass a five-year farm bill. I remain opposed to an extension of any kind for any time,” Minnesota’s Peterson said in a Nov. 8 release.
He said if the House voted on the Agriculture Committee’s bill before Thanksgiving, there would be time for negotiators to produce a final measure before the end of the year.
But during the recess, Lucas told reporters and farm groups that he would need four days for floor action if House leaders allowed a vote on the bill. To do that, leaders would have to be willing to devote one week out of the four they have scheduled for the post-election session.
The House bill was put on hold through the Nov. 6 elections to protect some members from potentially difficult votes, such as on the level of 10-year cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The committee bill calls for $16 billion in reductions over 10 years. Some conservatives argue that the program, which would account for more than half of the farm bill’s spending over the next decade, could withstand deeper cuts.
SNAP is just one major hurdle that would have to be cleared. If the House bill passes, negotiators may hit a wall in trying to resolve differences in their approaches on agriculture programs. Although both bills rely more heavily on insurance-like risk management proposals, the Senate approach is seen as more favorable to Midwestern corn and soybean producers and the House version is viewed as more favorable to Southern rice and peanut producers.
These are deep-seated regional differences that could take more than a few weeks to resolve.
On the other hand, lawmakers could use the savings achieved through a new, long-term farm bill in their effort to come up with a deficit reduction deal. The House farm bill would reduce spending by $35 billion over 10 years, and the Senate measure contains $23 billion in savings.
Stabenow last week raised her bill’s savings as a selling point for a five-year measure.
“If Congress can work together to pass the farm bill, it will create the trust and momentum we need to overcome gridlock and solve the challenges our country faces,” Stabenow, from Michigan, said in a Nov. 9 written statement. “Passing a bipartisan farm bill that reduces the deficit by $23 billion is a significant first step in meeting the critical deficit reduction challenges our country must face head-on this year.”